(This is the combined papers of the two authors contained in the booklet "DOWA EDUCATION: Educational Challenge Toward A Discrimination-free Japan," Buraku Liberation Research Institute, Osaka, Japan, 1995.)
Burakumin are Japanese people who suffer discrimination by the larger society in Japan. They belong to the same Japanese race. They are generally recognized as descendants of an outcast population during the feudal period of Japanese history. Many are considered Burakumin if they live in an area (Buraku) considered to be a Burakumin area, or have blood relationship with Burakumin. But defining who is a Burakumin is still a problem. Thus, at present, the Burakumin is in a way determined by the perceptions of non-Burakumin.
Discrimination against the Burakumin has remained through the years. The nature of current discrimination can be determined by findings of various surveys of discriminatory consciousness and by accounts of typical incidents of discrimination.
The secret publication and circulation of "Buraku Lists" uncovered in 1975 is one example. The "Buraku Lists" carried information on the location, size and occupations of Buraku communities in Japan. One can easily find out from the lists who is from the Buraku. Overall, nine lists are known to have been marketed and more than 200 corporations, including some world-famous Japanese giant corporations, purchased them. They did so in order to avoid hiring people from the Buraku. The full story about the lists is not known yet. The corporations which bought them have not received any legal punishment even for such an apparent act of discrimination.
There are still families who refuse to allow their children to marry Burakumin. Suicide and other problems have occurred among the young Burakumin as a result. Marriage is seen as more than just the consensual agreement between the marrying couple but the joining of one family to another. Thus some parents and/or even relatives may refuse the marriage. This tragic experience is seldom openly discussed by affected people and thus no statistical data is available to know the extent of the problem.
Results of various surveys on the awareness of local residents also indicate discriminatory views against the Burakumin. For instance, a survey conducted by the national government in 1993 revealed the following results: Only 17% of those surveyed answered "I will follow my will and marry" to the question "What would you do if you decide to marry someone from the Buraku but face strong opposition from your parents and relatives?" Only 43.4% answered "I will respect the will of our child. Parents should not intervene in such matter," to the question "What would you do if your child is getting married to someone from the Buraku?" Since this is just a survey, the actual situation can be assumed to be worse.
Various surveys show the public perception of Burakumin as hard working, kind, and honest. But the negative image of being vulgar, rude, backward, closed, gloomy, and horrible seem to be held more strongly. There are also strong objections to special government measures provided to Burakumin communities.
Education about Buraku issues is provided at present not only in formal education from elementary to college levels but also in non-formal education activities in the community and the workplace. Schools started to teach Buraku issues widely since 1965 after the DOWA Policy Council's recommendation on the need for DOWA education came out in that year.
DOWA education is defined as an umbrella concept referring to all forms of educational activities by both government and the Buraku movement to solve the problems of Buraku discrimination. It is now considered to be one pillar in the broad-based human rights education initiative in Japan.
For the government, DOWA education is a policy for 1) improving the education facilities and services in Burakumin controlled schools; 2) assigning additional teachers to such schools to provide complementary teaching; 3) providing support for community activities of children, youth and adults; 4) giving special financial aid to Buraku students; and 5) distributing special curricular materials to teach the Burakumin history and the corresponding government measures to address the problem.
For the Buraku movement, DOWA education means a set of education strategies for democratizing the whole society to attain true equality of opportunity for Burakumin and other oppressed populations. The objectives include 1) attaining parity in the level of education achievement and rate of enrollment in secondary and higher education levels; 2) developing critical thinking and sound learning capacities for Buraku children; and 3) promoting community involvement in setting up school agenda.
The former deals with issues of school enrollment, school achievement and educational opportunities in general while the latter is concerned with school curriculum and teaching efforts to change prejudiced views and to enhance human rights awareness.
Education about Buraku issues has grown rather widely in western Japan in elementary and secondary education. As a result, most children learn about Buraku issues in school. The quality of DOWA education may not be quite satisfactory but it is significant that students receive bias-free information in the school before they are deeply affected by prejudiced views on Burakumin at home and in the community.
The ratio of higher education institutions offering DOWA education is still limited compared to elementary and secondary education. Of the 1,100 higher education institutions in Japan, 305 or only 27% provides courses on DOWA education according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education. What is even worse is that these courses are rarely taught by full-time instructors and are mostly assigned to part-time teachers. There are only a few higher educational institutions engaged in research on Buraku issues. Such a lack of effort in higher educational institutions hampers the progress of education and research on Buraku issues.
It is impossible to distinguish Burakumin by appearance because Buraku discrimination is a caste-like discrimination that has evolved within the same ethnic group. As a result, there is widespread support to the view that "Buraku discrimination will go away only if we don't make a fuss about it." We call this view Neta Ko Wo Okosuna (Don't wake up a sleeping baby). This view negates the need to teach about Buraku issues. It is important, therefore, to point out the problems inherent in this view.
As indicated by a number of recent surveys, discrimination still persists. There are many Burakumin who would not want to face discrimination again. To say "Just keep quiet, and discrimination will go away" is almost the same as telling them to remain silent even in the face of apparent discrimination. There should be respect for the right of victims of Buraku and other forms of discrimination to raise their voices and appeal to society.
In Japan, institutional support for Buraku discrimination still exists. There is the Family Register Law which supports a family-oriented ideology. The family register is a system by which the government controls the citizens through the family. Local governments keep family registers that show past records of the families. The family register contains information that allows one to trace the family tree down several generations. This institutional framework has sustained discrimination against the Burakumin. Some people abuse this system to find out who is from the Buraku areas. Most other countries in the world do not have a family register system. The lack of such system in these countries did not bring serious problems in the area of public administration.
DOWA education developed as a consequence of incidents denouncing discriminatory practices. This has been the experience through the years. An example is the case of Osaka.
Up until the 1970s, a significant number of non-Burakumin parents living in the neighborhood of the Burakumin customarily send their children to schools away from their neighborhood even though there is a law which provides that the children should be sent in the neighborhood schools. This practice is called Ekkyo literally meaning "going beyond the border." Parents like distant schools which are prestigious and without Buraku or other minority children instead of the neighborhood schools that enroll Buraku children. This practice, therefore, is a reflection of the strong prejudice among non-Burakumin parents. At the same time, schools with Buraku children tended to have poorer conditions because the local governments did give them the proper budget.
Ekkyo became a hot political issue in 1968 in Osaka, and local governments in the Osaka area declared that it is a discriminatory practice. As a result, children who had been to non-neighborhood schools came back. There was an urgent need to properly educate these and other children on Buraku issues to avoid making them become even more strongly prejudiced against the Burakumin. In support of such awareness-raising process, a supplementary textbook on human rights entitled Ningen (Human Being) was made and given for free to all school children in the Osaka area. In this case, the effort to resolve a concrete case of discrimination led to various improvements in the education field.
Teaching actual cases of Buraku discrimination is not enough stimulus for students to reflect seriously on what they learn, or relate themselves to the problems. In the final analysis, if the students do not have the sensitivity to grasp the nature of the issue, the knowledge and interpretation of the teachers do not really empower them. A system called group process was therefore given much weight to lay the foundation for education about Buraku issues.
There are a number of key principles to observe in dealing with the group process in DOWA education. First, group process is situated in the context of the life of the children outside the school. Children are agents of their lives, and bring their lives at home and in the community to school. They show only some aspects of what they are in school. Those children who tend to cause problems in school may have trouble at home. It should be easier for the teacher to work on such children if he or she knows more about their lives at home and in the community. Similarly, if children know about each other's lives, their relationship can be developed in a mutually supportive manner.
Second, group process proceeds by placing the Teihen No Ko (children at the bottom) in the center. In DOWA education, Teihen No Ko refers to children who belong to discriminated group and children who have serious problems in their lives (relations with friends, academic performance, etc.). These children tend to suffer from a disproportionate weight of various contradictions in society. They may show poor academic performance because they do not have adequate support conditions both mentally and physically. They may get disorganized since they see no meaning in their lives. Or they may feel intimidated in the school environment. Placing Teihen No Ko in the center of the group process encourages the children in the whole class to recognize the problems of the "bottom" children as their own, and motivates them to grow together with the "bottom" children.
DOWA education has developed a number of methods to advance group process. Many of them were originally created by education movements in Japan, and further improved in DOWA education.
One method is the use of Seikatsu Noto (diary notebook). Children are asked to write about their daily lives and observations in a notebook which is brought to school. The teacher in turn write down his/her responses in the same notebook. With the teachers' caring and thoughtful comments, children who initially write rather superficial observations about their lives begin to focus their diary on their deeper concerns and real life problems
Another method is the use of Han (small groups) and a regular meeting of group leaders. About 5 to 8 small groups are formed in a class of 30 to 40 students. Students participate in various activities together as members of the small groups. They compare notes, and support and encourage one another. It is vital in this process to consider how vulnerable children or "bottom" children can be supported in the small groups. Meetings of small group leaders take place every week or two after class to learn about small group-based classroom management. Home room teachers discuss with them what has happened during the week to develop plans for the forthcoming events.
Writing about life or tsuzurikata is considered a vital component of DOWA education. tsuzurikata is a traditional major approach in teaching writing in Japan. Children, as agents of their own lives, are invited to write about their lives as they are.
The key to successful tsuzurikata or writing about life is elaborated in the following steps. The teacher should instruct the students to choose some unusual events or experiences, indicate the timeframe in writing about them, and write in detail the description of the events or experiences. Simply writing "I was very happy" does not convey the real feelings to the reader. The reader will be able to re-experience and share the feelings only if they are skillfully represented in writing, or presented as they are actually experienced.
Why is tsuzurikata so important in DOWA education? Prejudice causes bias in one's perception of even those who actually do their best to survive. Some Buraku children ask themselves "why was I born to these parents?" and become unable to accept and love them. tsuzurikata trains the writer to look at his or her life objectively and critically, and enables him or her to surmount prejudiced views.
Tsuzurikata may also enable the writer to reflect on his or her behavior critically and understand why he or she was carried away by emotions. As this process is repeated, the writer becomes able to control his or her behavior more rationally. The following episode exemplifies the change process: One boy was frequently involved in fights with his classmates. He was driven by emotion. He felt sorry for the fights usually after one week had lapsed. As he started tsuzurikata, he began to feel sorry for the fights three days afterward. Then he began to feel sorry for the other fights one day afterward. Finally he was able to control his emotion before he gets into a fight.
Education about Buraku issues began to spread widely in the early 1970s. No mention of Buraku issues in the school textbooks had been made before 1972. Today, most social studies textbooks refer to Buraku issues. However, these textbooks are not without problems. They may just describe historical events one after the other without really providing critical interpretations as to their background and context. They may only illustrate the poverty and misery that Buraku ancestors have suffered. Or, they may not situate the Buraku history in the overall context of Japanese history. Partly as a result of this situation, most students who study the Buraku issues in the school get a negative image of the Burakumin. The tendency to use extreme cases of discrimination in marriage and employment as teaching materials also shaped such perceptions.
However, Burakumin have not just been overwhelmed by discrimination. They have advanced the liberation movement by supporting each other and have surmounted a series of difficulties that stood before them. It can even be said that strength and generosity prevailed in the life of the Burakumin.
A major way for non-Burakumin to study Buraku issues has been to learn from real life experiences of the Burakumin. Burakumin may say
In addition, the following points are considered as major criteria to judge whether or not the materials and the teaching methods are good:
- when the current situation, not just the origin and history, on Buraku issues are discussed;
- when the discussions are not in abstract and general sense but focusing on concrete cases of discrimination and Buraku life;
- when the discussions are not meant to result only in efforts to resolve incidents of discrimination but in a movement against discrimination;
- when Buraku issues are taught by teachers by visiting Burakumin homes, and done in collaborative effort in schools;
- when the discussions are linked both to the concerns of the students and the learning materials;
- when the teachers are seen as people who are also learning in the process just like the students since they are not totally free of prejudice and are very much part of the issue of Buraku discrimination.
Supplementary DOWA textbooks substantially help teachers to organize classes to study Buraku and other human rights issues. The Ministry of Education has not produced any textbook on DOWA education. But many local governments have complied with the 1965 recommendation on DOWA education and published textbooks on human rights and DOWA education. There are more than 30 kinds of such textbooks available in Japan. Each kind of textbook is composed of a set of books for each grade level - grade one to junior highschool. Students usually receive the supplementary textbook on Buraku issues free of charge along with other textbooks in the beginning of each school year.
The book Ningen is an example of a supplementary textbook. This book, distributed to all elementary and junior highschool students in Osaka in the 1970s as mentioned before, was produced by the Buraku Liberation Education Institute with the help of many teachers and Buraku leaders. The DOWA Educators' Association in Osaka also played an important supportive role. The local government helped finance its publication.
The contents of the supplementary textbooks differ from one to another. But they are generally limited to Buraku issues and typically cover an array of human rights-related issues. Ningen for instance includes materials on discrimination against Burakumin, resident Koreans, women, disabled people and indigenous populations as well as such themes as life, work, friendship, peace and international understanding.
These textbooks are designed to meet the needs of students at different grade levels. Those for lower elementary grades look like colored picture-books and contain easy-to-read stories. Those for upper elementary grades have a number of concise stories dealing with issues close to their daily lives and presented in such a style as to stimulate classroom discussion. Those for junior highschool students have a comprehensive coverage of the history of Buraku issues.
It can be said that the supply of these supplementary textbooks through official channels is one unique feature of DOWA education.
In some areas where DOWA education is widely promoted, a comprehensive curriculum for teaching human rights and Buraku issues is designed for grade 1 through grade 9 (third year of junior highschool). A typical structure is as follows:
Grades 1-2 - Issues about people who work for the school; people who collect garbage;
Grades 3-4 - Issues about Burakumin in the school neighborhood;
Grades 5-6 - History of Buraku discrimination; human rights; politics;
Grade 7 - Fieldwork in Buraku areas in the school neighborhood;
Grade 8 - Issues about work and occupation of parents;
Grade 9 - Issues about future life and career choice.
Among the conventional approaches to Buraku studies, a major approach is simply listening to and learning from the Burakumin themselves. This approach, combined with the group process in the classroom, has stimulated non-Buraku students to deal with their personal problems in relation to Buraku issues.
Some doubt, however, the adequacy of this approach. Some schools have tried to translate what the students learned from Burakumin into drama script and motivated them to express their thinking and feelings through drama performance. Participatory and vicarious approaches, used internationally in human rights education activities, have been widely utilized on the belief that passive learning alone does not bring about a meaningful change on the part of the students. As a result, role-play, debates, simulation and other methods attract much attention these days because they encourage "learning to change" by doing.
Buraku discrimination is not the only form of discrimination in Japan. There are other forms of discrimination such as against women, resident Koreans, disabled people, etc. It cannot be assumed that Buraku discrimination will disappear while other forms of discrimination persist.
Looking back at the history of DOWA education, educational initiatives for Korean children and disabled children developed by learning the lessons drawn from the DOWA education experience. Now, DOWA education is expected to learn also from the experiences of anti-discrimination and human rights education efforts around the world.
Globalization is the major trend of today both politically and economically. Global perspectives are strongly needed when we deal with Buraku issues and DOWA education. Japan invaded other Asian countries during the second world war. Recently, Japanese economic expansion has adversely affected Asia by destroying the natural environment and people's life-styles. In a global context, Japan appears more as a victimizer. The Japanese people cannot but recognize their position as victimizers in their relationship with the rest of Asia. Future DOWA education has to be constructed on this assumption.
Learning about the issues facing other Asian countries does not just imply the recognition of this victimizer position. Buraku children can also take pride in what their ancestors did to advance the cause of Buraku liberation through the major strategies developed decades ago in the Buraku liberation movement such as the literacy movement and the demand for housing. Denunciation of discrimination is now growing and expected to grow in other Asian countries. By situating the Buraku issues in the context of Asia and the world, the significance of the Buraku liberation movement and DOWA education can be rediscovered.
The following issues need to be further explored in discussing the Buraku issue in a global context:
DOWA education has played a vital role in improving both the quantity and quality of educational opportunities for Buraku children to nurture anti-discriminatory attitudes and human rights awareness among educators and students in general through the schools and out-of-school education. It has also played vital role in stimulating other forms of human rights education movements to grow and network with each other. In other words, DOWA education has been a driving force to advance the human rights education initiative in Japan.
This scenario evolved against a historical background of a modern Japan where the quality of its human rights culture was first seriously challenged by the largest and most crudely discriminated minority population - the Burakumin.
The Levelers' Declaration of 1922 has been called "the first human rights declaration in Japan." The Levelers' Association , or Suiheisha, was founded to initiate a self-directed liberation movement by the Burakumin themselves. The declaration states, in reference to what had happened following the Emancipation Edict of 1871 that formally declared the end of the feudal class system,
"[I]n the past half century, various reform efforts undertaken on our behalf many people have not yielded any appreciable results. Previous movements, though seemingly motivated by compassion for humanity, have actually ruined many of our brothers and sisters. Thus, it is now imperative for us to initiate within ourselves a collective movement by which we shall liberate ourselves through our respect for humanity."
Its clear message of calling for a self-directed liberation movement and perspective to relate the specific Buraku initiative to the universal theme of respecting humanity have made this declaration a milestone in the quest for human rights in Japan.
However, the innovative initiative did not grow in a form of an abstract idea but was lived in a reality. The weight of Buraku discrimination was so overwhelming in the Japanese political and cultural context that struggles to challenge it had to be powerful and total.
The declaration also said
"Our ancestors were pursuers of freedom and equality, and executors of these principles. They were the victims of contemptible caste policies, and courageous martyrs of their occupations. In recompense for skinning animals, they were skinned of the respect due humans. For tearing out the hearts of animals, their human hearts were torn apart, and despicable ridicule was spat on them. Yet all through these cursed nights of nightmares, human dignity ran deep in their blood. Indeed, we who were born of this blood, are now living in an era when humans are willing to take over the gods. The time has come for the oppressed to throw off their stigma. The time has come for the martyrs to receive the blessing for their crown of thorns. The time has come when we can take pride in being Eta. We must never shame our ancestors nor profane humanity by demeaning words or cowardly deeds. We know very well how cold the coldness of human society can be, and how warm it is when one cares for another. We therefore from the bottom of our heart revere and pursue the warmth and light of human life."
The deeper the valley, the higher the mountain. The harsher and more total the discrimination is, the more resilient and thorough the resistance can grow.
The Buraku liberation movement has been a major driving force of human rights in Japan. Similarly, DOWA education has significantly encouraged the human rights education initiative in the country.
The major strengths of DOWA education can be summarized in the following ways:
However, because Buraku discrimination was so overwhelming, DOWA education has had a number of weaknesses too. Following are some of the weaknesses:
In Kansai and most prefectures in western Japan, DOWA education has been implemented with strong support from local governments. However, this has not been the case in eastern Japan. There are wide local variations in the scope and scale of DOWA education in practice.
DOWA education has been more elaborately and extensively programmed in elementary and junior highschools but not so much in senior high schools, colleges, universities and in pre-school education.
On the otherhand, DOWA education has often fought a lonely battle without effectively collaborating with other anti-discrimination and human rights-oriented groups and individuals. There has been a tendency among some educators to regard DOWA education as the only authentic education for human rights in Japan while criticizing other initiatives as intrinsically assimilatory.
DOWA educators often did not communicate effectively their valuable experiences and perspectives to other educators, scholars and the general public, even if they were also democratic-minded pursuers of human rights. As a result, unnecessary barriers were erected between them, hampering productive collaboration.
We now observe growing circles of human rights-oriented education in Japan. They can be the ethnic education for Koreans and other foreigners, education for the disabled, development education, intercultural education, environmental education, sex education, etc. Their objectives are different, but they share the same concerns of respecting human rights and of appreciating differences. Innovative curricula and teaching strategies have been developed by these various organizations.
Amnesty International and other NGOs are actively expanding programs of human rights education in Japan. These stimuli and inputs from non-governmental sectors are gradually transforming the human rights education scene in Japan that is mostly school-based.
The United Nation's Decade for Human Rights Education started in 1995. The then UN Secretary General defined the concept of human rights education as
"education, training, dissemination and information efforts aimed at building of a universal culture of human rights through the imparting of knowledge and skills and the molding of attitudes and which are directed to a) strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, b) full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity; c) promotion of understanding, tolerance, gender equity and friendship among nations, indigenous peoples and racial, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups; d) enabling all persons to participate effectively in a free society; and e) furtherance of the activities of the United Nations system for the maintenance of peace."
The UN Decade for Human Rights Education provides a good opportunity for DOWA education to consolidate synergetic networks on anti-discrimination and human rights education, both domestically and internationally.
DOWA education in Japan is now actively joining this UN initiative by sharing experiences in such a broad array of human rights education efforts in the belief that DOWA education, so far little known overseas, can contribute to other initiatives in promoting anti-discrimination/human rights education in the world.